Bihar, deriving its name from the ancient word “VIHARA” (monastery) is a historical, cultural and religious place. It is a land of monasteries with Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Muslim and Sikh shrines abound in this ancient land. A travel to Bihar exposes you to the historical proofs of the birth of Buddhism and Jainism and the ancient traditions of Hinduism. It is here that a prominent proponent of Sikh religion – Guru Gobind Singh was born. And it is here that the world’s first university at Nalanda was established. And if all that is not enough, it was in Bihar that Gandhiji first launched his Satyagraha movement against British rule. Gautam Buddha though not born in Bihar spent the most part of his active life in this province, preaching Buddhism. He began his meditation and attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya. Mahavir, the historical founder of Jainism was born in Bihar and the early history of Jainism is bound to this region. Pawapuri, where Lord Mahavir attained nirvana, is another famous travel destination in Bihar. Among the notable contribution of Bihar to Indian Culture, prominence must be given to splendid buildings of architecture and sculpture, both in stone and metal made during the ancient times. Having ruled by different dynasties from Licchavi, Muryans to Mughals and then ultimately by Britishers, the ancient land of Bihar is a place which takes you into the glorious past of Indian heritage. Some important destinations to visit in Bihar are Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Rajgir, Patna, Pawapuri, Vaishali Kushinagar etc,
By Air: Bihar is well-connected to major cities of India and the world via air through Jaiprakash Narayan Airport (Patna) and Bodhgaya Airport (Gaya). Regular flights operate between Bihar and major cities of the country like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Lucknow Surat, Bangalore etc. Bodhgaya also boasts of international flight connectivity & caters to Buddhist tourists coming from Sri Lanka and South East Asian countries like Thailand etc.
By Road: Bihar is also well-connected with the rest of country via a network of National & State highways. Surrounded by Uttar Pradesh to its west, Nepal to the north, the northern part of West Bengal to the east, with Jharkhand to the south Bihar is well connected with all the important destinations of them through state owned and private bus services. There are regular and frequent international bus services to Nepal from its Border cities.
By Train: Train services to and within Bihar are excellent. A well-developed network of railway connects major and minor regions of Bihar to important parts of the neighborhood as well as the country. Patna, Gaya, and Bhagalpur are main railheads of Bihar.
The climate of Bihar is a part of the climatic pattern of the Indian subcontinent. The best time to visit Bihar is considered to be the period from October to March i.e winters. Weather is quite pleasant and the soothing sun adds to the charm of traveling in Bihar. Temperature is around 5 °C to 25°C. Light woolens are preferred especially in December and January.
Whether there are historical places, religious destinations or architectural masterpieces, Bihar has everything to engage a traveler for several days. Here’s the list of the best places you can visit during your journey in Bihar.
• Bodhgaya: Bodhgaya or Gaya is the holiest place for the followers of the Buddhist faith & tourist all over the world. It is a very sacred pilgrim center for the Hindus too. Oblations are offered for the salvation of their dead parents and forefathers. The temple of Vishnupad on the bank of river Falgu attracts a very large number of pilgrims from all over the world. This religious site situated in Gaya district is famous for its Mahabodhi temple complex. It is the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have obtained Enlightenment in around 600 BCE under what became known as the Bodhi tree. The Mahabodhi temple has now been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Some key attractions & excursion to visit in and around Bodhgaya are Sujata’s Stupa, Dharmaranya, Rajayatana, Dungeshwari temple Sujata Garh, Vishnu pad temple, 80ft. Buddha, Thai monastery etc.
• Nalanda: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located about 90 kilometers southeast of Patna near the town of Bihar Sharif. Nalanda is famous all over the world for the ancient International Monastic University established in 5th century BC. The name Nalanda resonates as an inspiration to anybody who heard about this place as the nurturing ground of the first residential international university of the world. In ancient times, the school attracted scholars and students from near and far with some traveling all the way from Tibet, China, Korea, and Central Asia. Built with red bricks, the complex was spread over an area of 14 hectares.Later destroyed by the invaders, today the ruins and remnants of the worlds most ancient university stand testimony to that glorious past. Apart from the university another center of attraction & excursions to visit in and around Nalanda are Rajgir, Pawapuri, Pant wildlife sanctuary, Bimbisara jail, Giriyak hill, Saptparni caves, Hot spring Kund, Veenuvana, Maniar math, Xuanzang Memorial Hall, Kundalpur etc.
• Patna: Patna is the capital of Bihar state. It is located on the south bank of the river Ganga. Patna is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world. Patna was founded in 490 BCE by the king of Magadha and its ancient name was Patliputra. The city of Patna has lots of touristic attractions as a result of its centuries of the rich legacy and historical lineage. Patna is known for its tourist destinations and people across the state and abroad visits Patna. The city is also a sacred place for Sikhs as the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, was born here. The cultural heritage of Bihar is reflected in many ancient monuments of Patna. Kumhrar and Agam Kuan are the sites of the ruins of the Ashokan Pataliputra. Didarganj Yakshi remains is an example of Mauryan art. Padri Ki Haveli, Golghar, and Secretariat Building are examples of British architecture. Gandhi Maidan is a historic ground in Patna where several freedom movement rallies took place. Newly built Buddha Smriti Park near Patna Junction is also becoming a major tourist attraction. Takht Harmandir is another of major attraction. Sher Shah Suri Masjid, Sadakat Ashram, Patna Museum, Khuda Baksh Oriental Library, St Luke’s Church, Martyr’s Memorial etc. are some important landmarks of Patna.
• Pawapuri: Pawapuri or Pawa is a holy site for Jains located in the Nalanda district in the Bihar. It is located about nineteen kilometers from Rajgir and 101 kilometers from Patna, the capital of Bihar. It is said that all sins end for a devout Jain by visiting Pawapuri. Lord Mahavir, the last Tirthankara (prophet), and founder of Jainism breathed his last at this place and was cremated here around 500 B.C. It is said that the demand for his ashes was so great that a large amount of soil was removed from around the funeral pyre, creating the water tank. A marble temple, the “Jalmandir”, was later built in the middle of the tank and is now a major pilgrimage spot for Jains. Another Jain temple called Samosharan is located here. Other notable excursions are of Mahabodhi temple & Rajgir.
• Rajgir: Rajgir, 19 km from Nalanda, was the ancient capital of Magadha Empire. Lord Buddha often visited the monastery here to meditate and to preach. Rajgir is very special to Buddhists as this was one of the very favorite places of the Buddha. The Gridhkuta hill top is said to be the Buddha’s favorite meditation place. Also, the Veenuvana dedicated to Buddha by Bimbisara as his resting place is popular with Buddhist pilgrims. Rajgir is also a place sacred to the Jains since Lord Mahavir spent many years here. It is said that Mahavir spent 14 rainy seasons in Rajgir and Nalanda around 527 – 497 BCE. He gave his first sermon on the Vipula hill. Each hill of Rajgir is associated with various Tirthankaras. Numerous Jain temples dot Rajgir’s surrounding hills. Its association with Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavir hallows the place.
• Vaishali: Vaishali is one of the most famous spiritual destinations of Buddhism and Jainism. This archeological city is situated in Vaishali district. Named after the king Vishal, it is considered to be one of the world’s first democratic republics. Even before the advent of Buddhism and Jainism, Vaishali was the capital of the vibrant Republican Licchavi state. It is also the place where Lord Mahavir was born. Gautama Buddha delivered his last sermon at Vaishali and announced his Parinirvana there. Vaishali is a traveler’s paradise from the view point of cultural history and archeology. Some key attractions to visit in Vaishali are Ashokan pillar, Buddha Stupa, Kundalpur, Raja Vishal ka Garh, Coronation Tank, Buddhi Mai, Ramchaura, Vaishali Museum, Buddha Stupa I and II, World Peace Pagoda, Chaumukhi Mahadeva, Kundalpur, Raja Vishal ka Garh, Bawan Pokhar Temple etc.
• Kushinagar: Kushinagar is an important religious and cultural center of not in India but around the world. It is one of the four holiest places for the Buddhists. Kushinagar is one of the principal centers of the Buddhist pilgrimage. It is the place where Lord Buddha left his corporeal self and attained Mahaparinirvana. Kushinagar is one of the four major pilgrimage destinations for Buddhists authorized by Buddha itself. Situated on the bank of river Gandak and nearer to the Terai of the Himalayas, this region was an ideal ‘Meditation Place’ for sages, saints hermits, and Mahatmas who were attracted by its pious, tranquil and charming natural surroundings. Some of the key attractions & excursions to visit in Kushinagar are Nirvana Stupa, Mahaparinirvana Temple, Matha Kuar Shrine, Ramabhar Stupa, Wat Thai Temple, Chinese Temple, Japanese Temple, Buddha Museum, Sun temple etc..